28 APRIL 1, 2013 ❮ GOLFWORLD.COM
However the PGA Tour decides to deal with Vijay Singh’s use of a banned substance, a question will inger: Does professional golf have a problem with players using performance enhancing drugs?
I’ve been covering the fitness and nutrition boom on the
PGA Tour since it began in the late 1990s. Yes, players are
working out harder to get stronger, leaner and more flexible.
They and their trainers are aware of the latest innovations.
But my answer to the question is: very unlikely.
It’s to be expected that in the wake of PED scandals in
big-time sports (Lance Armstrong’s being only the latest),
even pro golfers—long considered only marginal athletes
under the classic criteria of “higher, faster, stronger”—are
coming under increased scrutiny and suspicion.
Trainer Kai Fusser heard “steroid” rumors back in the
early 2000s when his client Annika Sorenstam hit the gym
with vengeance to simultaneously pack on muscle and
dominate the women’s game. “At the time Annika had a real
good answer for those who accused her,” Fusser said. “She
would say it’s almost flattering that people think that because
it told her she was working harder than anyone else.”
Among today’s fittest golfers, I’ve found that such gym
work is commonly accompanied by legal supplements that
can build and repair muscle tissue. And while, theoretically,
such substances might aid in gaining 10 yards off the tee or
having the stamina to play 35 events a year (or even in
developing Camilo Villegas-like abs), where they can really
help is in two vital areas: speedier recovery from injuries and
slowing the negative effects of aging.
Of course, if legal supplements help, illegal PEDs would
“help” more. But because cheating of any kind carries a
lifetime stigma in the competitive golf culture, I find that
rather than becoming more experimental, golfers and their
trainers have gotten more cautious.
One reason is that labeling on legal supplements is
notoriously imprecise. Lee Westwood, whose powerful body
is testament to hard work in the gym, says, “I’m wary of
taking something that’s illegal, so I don’t take them at all.”
Chris Noss, fitness consultant to Zach Johnson, Rickie
Fowler and Dustin Johnson among others, says he isn’t
worried about players intentionally taking banned substances. He’s worried that some health-food product he recommended to a player could be tainted. He gives his players
amino-acid boosters that are certified by independent
testers to contain no banned substances. “Even still, after
my guys began taking it and got drug tested, I held my
breath,” he says. “You never know.”
Just too risky
GOLFERS BENEFIT FROM IMPROVED FITNESS PLANS,
BUT FEAR OF WIDESPREAD PED USE IS UNFOUNDED
BY RON KASPRISKE
It appears the 50-year-old Singh fell prey, at the very least, to a
lack of caution. He used a product that contained extract from
deer antlers, which is believed to aid in muscle recovery. That he
freely admitted its use would seem to support his claim that he
didn’t know the extract (IGF- 1) is on the PGA Tour’s list of
banned substances. Singh wouldn’t have been caught if he
hadn’t said anything because the tour’s drug testing through
urine samples can’t detect growth factors such as IGF- 1 and
growth hormone. Still, he could be suspended up to a year and
fined a maximum of $500,000.
I think all the hubbub about Singh, however, has created
a false impression. Since the tour’s anti-doping policy was
adopted in 2008, only one player has tested positive for a
performance-enhancing substance (the tour does not
disclose when a player tests positive for recreational drugs
such as marijuana or cocaine.) In 2009 Doug Barron was
flagged for taking a steroid and a beta-blocker, which can
help keep a person calm by regulating adrenaline.
“I’m not so naïve to think no one has ever cheated by
taking something that would help their game or prolong
their career,” says Ben Shear, fitness consultant to Jason
Day, Luke Donald and Webb Simpson. “But I’m not con-
vinced of anybody doing it now.”
Call me naïve. But based on everything I see and hear, I
would agree. N